Mobile Systems for Biomass Pre-treatment: Technology Demonstration 14-16 June at Umeå

Chipper3Biomass processing techniques will be demonstrated 14-16 June at the Biomass Technology Centre at Umeå, Sweden.Would the use of biomass as a renewable feedstock in the production of fuels, chemicals and materials be more efficient if part of the production process—the pre-treatment resulting in semi-finished products—were performed by mobile units close to the harvesting site?

Researchers and company representatives in the large EU project Mobile Flip think so. From tomorrow they gather at Umeå in northern Sweden to see some of the techniques demonstrated. Bio4Energy researcher This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. coordinates the three days of demonstrations, excursions and talks.

"The project's name refers to the mobile and flexible processing of biomass. We are going to make semi-finished products close to the production site of the raw material. New business models will be drawn up and the technologies assessed with LCA [life cycle assessment]", said Larsson, who is an associate professor at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU). 

"We have a technical work package that lets us work on the respective technologies pelletisation, torrefaction, hydrothermal treatment and saccharification (i.e. hydrolysis of polysaccharides to soluble sugars, Ed's note) and we build mobile systems for them".

The project partners' idea is to make use of superfluous biomass materials, such as agricultural and forestry residues. Since raw biomass waste tends to be bulky, oftentimes it can make sense to subject it to some kind of pre-treatment that makes it more compact and reduces its water content. If processing systems could be made mobile, financial and environmental costs of transporting and handling the biomass could be reduced.

Read more: Mobile Systems for Biomass Pre-treatment: Technology Demonstration 14-16 June at Umeå

Lignin, Pyrolysis Oil, to Become 'Bio-crude' for Use in Fossil Oil Refineries, Biofuels

Lignin hyrdocracker SP ETC 25516Hyrdocracker reactor for pre-treated biomass. Illustration by courtesy of Magnus Marklund.New pilot facilities for the upgrading of lignin (which plant matter makes up roughly a third of the wood in trees) and of pyrolysis oil to a crude bio-based oil, or "bio-crude", is being installed at Bio4Energy member organisation SP Energy Technology Center (SP ETC) at Piteå, Sweden. The oil giant Preem has positioned itself as a forerunner in the search for renewable alternatives to fossil oil in its refined products, and are financing the new infrastructure at the SP ETC together with the Swedish Energy Agency and others.

"The technology is based on a principle in use in [fossil] oil refineries for the cracking and hydrogenation of fossil residual streams. We will be making a form of bio-crude which is adapted for going straight into a refinery, as a type of blend-in product which can be added to upgrade crude oil", said This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., CEO at the SP ETC.

The product of the pilot operations will be entirely bio-based, with the lignin content having been previously extracted from black liquor, which is a residual stream in pulping, and the pyrolysis oil made on the premises from forestry residue, such as tree tops and branches from northern Sweden forests. Marklund said that the new facilities, small enough to fit into a standard container, would be taken into operation in the last quarter of this year with a specific lignin and pyrolysis upgrading project in mind and which would end in the first quarter of 2017.

"In this first one the end product will be blend-in biofuels. In a longer term perspective the pilot will be used more generally [for the upgrading of] liquefied biomass", according to Marklund who is a PI on the research and development platform Bio4Energy Thermochemical Conversion Technologies.

Read more: Lignin, Pyrolysis Oil, to Become 'Bio-crude' for Use in Fossil Oil Refineries, Biofuels

Transformation of Sweden's Energy System Discussed at Luleå in August

Akkats power station Credit LTUAkkats hydro power station far north in Sweden at Jokkmokk, owned by state-run energy utility Vattenfall. Photo by courtesy of Vattenfall AB.Bio4Energy researchers and industrial partners are calling on energy stakeholders—representatives of Swedish authorities, business and industry, research institutes and academics—to join them 23-24 August at Luleå, Sweden, for talks on how far the country has come in implementing a sustainable energy system.

Summarising the economic, social and environmental side of things, as well as discussing ways forward, does not sound like an easy task to accomplish in two days, but conference coordinator This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. believes it can be done.

"The transformation of the Swedish energy system is a great undertaking and requires a broad start. There will be 50 research presentations and a number of keynote [addresses] by people from industry and authorities and politicians. People can expect to hear about systems' studies, analyses of political support measures, how to promote biofuels and the development of markets and trade", according to Lundmark, who is a professor at the Luleå University of Technology.

Ibrahim Balyan, Sweden's minister for energy, and Tomas Kåberger, Swedish energy profile and professor at Chalmers University of Technology, are posted as keynote speakers on the website of the Swedish Association for Energy Economics Conference 2016, and the event is subtitled 'Current and future challenges of energy systems in Sweden and neighbouring countries'.
Attachments:
Download this file (SEAA-2016_Poster_RL.pdf)SEAA 2016 Conference Poster[ ]1293 kB

Read more: Transformation of Sweden's Energy System Discussed at Luleå in August

Environmental Chemist Wins 'Collaboration Prize'

Mats Tysklind 516Environmental chemist Mats Tysklind has won an award for having cooperated with partners in academia, industry and with public bodies. Photo by courtesy of Umeå University.A new professor in Bio4Energy since the start of its second programme period 1 January 2016, environmental chemist This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. has started his mandate by winning a prize for having cooperated successfully with a number of organisations. It is awarded by the Faculty of Science and Technology at his home institution, Umeå University (UmU), and will be handed to him at award ceremony 21 May. Two days prior Tysklind will be giving a public lecture entitled Samverkan – avgörande för utveckling av smart miljöteknik.

Since cooperation across organisations and disciplinary borders is what Bio4Energy is about, and since Tysklind is part of its new research platform Bio4Energy System Analysis and Bioeconomy, which is task is precisely to provide a system's perspective on processes and products that are developed in the cluster, the award is felt to be timely.

"During many years we have been making an effort to cooperate widely with different organisations in society. Now that one thinks about it they are incredibly many. Lately we are [reaching out specifically to] organisations that promote sustainable development and green technology and environmental technology. It has resulted in [the university's] investing in a new area of research on Green Technology and Environmental Economics", Tysklind said when asked why he thought he had received the prize.

Read more: Environmental Chemist Wins 'Collaboration Prize'

From Luleå to Stockholm on E85 from Renewable Methanol - Audio

DSC 2892 400x265Bio4Energy researcher Rikard Gebart and Fredrik Granberg are on the road from Luleå to Stockholm in a personal car powered by renewable methanol based on forestry residue. Photo by courtesy of the LTU.Three weeks ago the news struck that LTU Green Fuels—a cluster of large pilot facilities at Piteå, Sweden, which centre tested and perfected biofuels such as methanol based on forestry residue—was going to have to cease its activities due to a lack of funding.

Today the research leader of the Biosyngas programme, which was an integral part of the development work at the LTU Green Fuels centre, is making a real-life test of the fuel that has been produced and had its performance tested in the centres’ reactors for more than 10,000 hours. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., professor at the Luleå University of Technology and the LTU Green Fuels chief project leader, Fredrik Granberg, are travelling from Luleå in northern Sweden to Stockholm, and then on to Eskilstuna, in a car powered by renewable methanol fuel produced at the pilot plant and blended in with standard petrol refined from fossil oil. This equals a distance of 943.7 kilometre if one chooses to travel mainly on the E4 highway, according to Google Maps.

"It's the first time anybody tries to drive a personal car that has been adjusted to perform well on E85 biofuel from renewable methanol made in Sweden", Gebart said Wednesday (4 May) in a press release from the LTU.

Gebart is a member of the research and development platform Bio4Energy Thermochemical Conversion Technologies. Since before the start of Bio4Energy in 2010, he has been working tirelessly to develop biomass gasification technology to a point where it turns out biofuels from forestry residues and by-products from pulp and paper making that perform as well as in cars its fossil alternatives, are relatively cheap to produce, emit no or a low amount of polluting emissions and can be turned out in large volumes.

Read more: From Luleå to Stockholm on E85 from Renewable Methanol - Audio

Potentially Toxic Chemicals in Thermal Conversion of Biomass Need to Be Investigated, Controlled

QiujuGao 416Bio4Energy PhD researcher Qiuju Gao checks torrefied material for toxic organic chemicals in a laboratory at the University of York. Photo by courtesy of Qiuju Gao.In large-scale production of heat and electricity in the developed world, emissions from biomass burning are generally well controlled. Recently, however, new high-technological methods have been invented that are designed as a pre-treatment step to various forms of temperature-dependent conversion of renewable biomass to fuels, chemicals and materials, often in combination with heat and/or electricity production.

Because in such thermal conversion every new process step could be a potential source of undesirable emissions, and because these need to be controlled for the purpose of safeguarding human health and the environment, Bio4Energy scientists set out to investigate the matter with a focus on toxic emissions in relation to pre-treatment technologies that are still in their infancy: Microwave-assisted pyrolysis and torrefaction. While the former is designed to produce a bio oil using microwave technology (and which oil then may be further refined into value-added specialty chemicals), the other is a form of roasting of the biomass which renders light-weight and hydrophobic solid pellets or briquettes. Both methods are performed in an oxygen free, or near oxygen-free, environment.

In a set of studies carried out by Bio4Energy PhD student This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and colleagues at Umeå University in Sweden and at the University of York in the UK, the researchers wanted to find out whether each of the two technologies gave rise to the formation of dioxins or dioxin-like substances that are toxic organic compounds that can spread over large distances, accumulate in the fatty tissue of humans and animals and persist for a long time in the environment. These chemicals are regulated under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) which is a global treaty agreed under the auspices of the United Nations in 2001. It aims for countries to phase out the use of POPs since these are known to induce cancer and immune system deficiencies in humans.

Read more: Potentially Toxic Chemicals in Thermal Conversion of Biomass Need to Be Investigated, Controlled

LCA Appropriate Tool for Assessing Environmental Impact of Forest Products, But Beware of Uncertainties

Frida Royne Photo by FRSystem analysis student in Bio4Energy Frida Røyne will be defending her PhD thesis on LCA and forest products 22 April at Umeå, Sweden. Photo by courtesy of Frida Røyne.A well-known method for assessing the environmental and climate change impacts of products over their life-cycle is Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). Forest products are no exception in this respect. However, while there has been rising interest in applying LCA to check the impact of forest products designed to replace similar ones refined from fossil oil, in the last decade a discussion has been ongoing about how to account for greenhouse gas emissions and from which sources.

LCA is one of the most commonly used methods for environmental life-cycle assessments, but the correctness of an assessment's outcome relies heavily on the researcher's choice of method in designing his or her study, as well as the availability of relevant input data.

Tomorrow, a Bio4Energy student who has dwelled into both these issues will be defending her thesis on Exploring the Relevance of Uncertainty in the Life Cycle Assessment of Forest Products.

Part of the new research and development platform Bio4Energy System Analysis and Bioeconomy, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. of Umeå University used recent cases studies—such as a "Forest Chemistry" project in which chemical and forestry industry in Sweden joined forces to try to assess whether a chemical industry cluster at Stenungsund could feasibly replace part of its fossil raw material base with forest-sourced feedstock—to draw conclusions as to whether LCA is a suitable method by which to assess forest products. However, being a generalist and employed by the SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden, Røyne also was interested in looking at the development of LCA as a method of systems analysis, its potential flaws and the way in which these were being communicated.

Her chief conclusion is that LCA is indeed an appropriate method for assessing the environmental and climate change impact of forest product systems, but that the use of additional methods—such as life-cycle management or scenario analysis—may be warranted and that, in each individual case, researchers have to ask themselves whether there are uncertainties and discuss these in their studies.

Read more: LCA Appropriate Tool for Assessing Environmental Impact of Forest Products, But Beware of...

Lack of Funding Puts End to Large-scale Pilot Trials of BioDME and Bio-based Methanol in Sweden - Audio

LTU Green Fuels at Pitea SEBiofuel production at large-scale pilot operations at Piteå, Sweden will cease. Photo by courtesy of the Luleå University of Technology.

LTU Green Fuels at Piteå—Sweden's only large-scale pilot operations for the production of liquid biofuel from forestry residue—are going to cease its activities due to lack of funding, according to a press release issued by its owner, the Luleå University of Technology.

Despite the pilot plant's having delivered about 1000 tonnes of clean, bio-based dimethyl ether (DME) and methanol, and despite the product having been successfully trialled as fuel in commercial trucking operations by the car manufacturer Volvo, the Swedish Energy Agency had decided not to extend funding beyond the 100 million Swedish kroner it had granted for the past three years, the press release said. It appears that the current 17 employees at LTU Green Fuels will soon have to look around for other work.

"I think it's a shame that we have to discontinue the work at the plant but I am nevertheless hopeful that the technology [developed there] has a future. It has been thoroughly verified in our pilot plant", said This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., professor at the LTU and part of the research and development platform Bio4Energy Thermochemical Conversion Technologies.

In successive interviews since the start of Bio4Energy in 2010, he has been pointing out that for industry to take the step to commercialisation, a long-term and stable political framework is needed that is supportive of a large-scale roll out of second-generation or more advanced biofuels and co-products.

Read more: Lack of Funding Puts End to Large-scale Pilot Trials of BioDME and Bio-based Methanol in Sweden -...

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